fiction, photography

CATHEDRAL

Chris R-1-166 Image by Christine Renney

They say that familiarity breeds contempt. I’m not quite there yet but this place has begun to grate a little, to nag and gnaw at me. Feels as if I have conjured it up from out of nowhere and I’m not sure why or how.
A tiny square in a sprawling city, a city that can’t be contained. It is spreading and thriving despite the degradation, all the empty and dilapidated buildings.
I have settled here and I stay until I have the cash, enough for what I need. And in order to get it, I walk elsewhere, a little farther each time. And yet still I keep making my way back.

I awake in the grounds of the Cathedral. Hands in the short and wiry grass, I push myself up and gaze down at the City. I try to pick out the place from which I set out, the one to which I keep on making my way back. But it is so vast, a dense and cubist scrawl. For months now I have been walking further and further from this particular part of the City in order to find an off-licence with an unfamiliar face across the counter. Someone who won’t recognise me as I purchase the bottles and the cans I need. And this time I didn’t turn myself around. I kept on walking for longer than was necessary and eventually I settled down.

Glancing up at the Cathedral I shudder to think that I have slept here in the grass; in this carefully tended, this perfectly and painstakingly manicured graveyard and, that as I did, someone tidied around me, removing the strewn cans, even prizing the almost empty bottle from my hand. Taking it and the last few drops I hadn’t quite managed to drain.

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fiction, photography

MORE

Chris R-1-135 Image by Christine Renney

I have money now, just a few coins, and gripping them tightly, I delve deep into the lining of my coat as I walk. I work a coin between my thumb and forefinger. I take them out and move them from hand to hand. I thrust the coins deep into the pocket of my jeans only to take them out again and again. I can’t stop doing this, looking at them, checking.
I drop one of the coins and it rolls out into the road. I run after it, suddenly worried that someone will take it. I stamp down on it with my boot and, crouching down at the kerbside, I quickly snatch it back. I have wandered away from the centre and there is no-one around.
Rising I place the coin with the others in my pocket. I have an odd feeling inside. It is something like purpose and yet I haven’t any idea what it is I intend to do.
I reach a parade of shops and, stopping in front of the plate glass windows of the off-licence, I peer in at the bottles, at the wine and the spirits. I don’t have enough but then I see cans of lager in the cooler at the back of the shop.
Although I am still unsure that this is what I want or what I need, I am already pushing through the doors and I know how it works; I spend what I have and then I get more.

Can alcohol still take hold? Get inside and make its demands? Or am I too full of holes and will it seep through the scars?
I have separated the can from its companions, freed it from the plastic ring and set it down in front of where I am sitting. Leaning back I stretch my legs out across the pavement and I can’t reach the can between my feet.
The others, the passers by, are forced to step over me and many of them glare angrily and I am glad of it. I don’t want some good Samaritan crouching down beside me. But if I sit here for long enough and drink myself into a stupor I know, of course, that this will happen.
What I want is for one of them to knock the can over and I don’t care if it is intentional or not, as long as I can watch the lager pool onto the pavement, the damp patch spreading between my legs and soaking into my trousers.
But despite their impatience and the scowls, the passers by are graceful, balletic even, and they don’t touch me and they don’t knock the can.
If I were to draw in my legs and reach out, snatch the can and drink from it would I feel it? Can I still know it? Can a ghost carry that conflict and walk with it?

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poetry, prosetry

Advice For Alcoholics

ONE /

The woman with the ugly shoes
tells you that “alcohol and depression don’t mix.”
She is wrong. They do mix, well
deliciously and often.
You may be mental, but you are also a mixologist.
You make cocktails:
3 parts vodka, 2 parts lethargy, 1 part lemonade.
3 parts tequila, 2 part tears, 1 part orange juice.
3 parts whisky, 2 parts grief, 1 part diet coke.
You mix them together then pour the beautiful blend into fancy glasses
serve them with little paper umbrellas and a heartbreak garnish
or with crushed self-esteem and a tiny straw
depending on the day, depending on your mood.
You drink them down and you feel less dead than you did before.

TWO /

The man who always carries a bottle of Fanta
tells you something that his Jamaican gran’ma told him
when he first started this job
“You can leave the rum out of a fruitcake, but you still got a fruitcake.”
He is right. He tells you that even if you quit drink and drugs
you’ll still be sick,
you’ll still have problems,
you’ll still be inherently mad.
You tell him that if you quit drink and drugs
you won’t survive
you won’t be able to cope with life.
He agrees.
You agree.
You never see him again.

THREE / 

The woman with the silk scarf and kind face
tells you that “your mind is a machine.”
She says that your machine isn’t working properly,
that it’s broken and has been for a very long time.
She is right. She also tells you
that your body is like a car that runs on diesel,
and that every time you drink alcohol you are putting petrol into your car,
which fucks up the machine, your mind, the engine, your heart.
She tells you that it’s stupid to keep putting petrol into a diesel car
and expecting it to work and being surprised when it doesn’t.
Together you attempt to lift the hood, to look under the bonnet
and see what’s wrong with your machine, your car.
You are one trip away from a breakdown.
You are one key-turn away from being a write-off.
You stop drinking.
You fix your car.
But everything under the bonnet is still rusty
and all of your parts are in the wrong places.
You are beyond repair.
You belong on a scrapheap.
Then the wise woman abandons you.
You drink because she’s no longer there to tell you not to.

FOUR /

The man who is your friend’s Dad
tells you “never mix grape and grain”
after he has to pick you up in his car from a park
when you are 13 years old and paralytic on a Tuesday afternoon.
He is right. You think of this piece of advice often:
usually when you drink wine and then beer, or beer and then wine.
What was the rhyme? “Wine before beer, you’re in the clear”
or was it “Beer before wine, you’ll be feeling fine”?
Either way, it doesn’t matter,
you’ll always feel better
then much, much worse.
Grape and grain.
Embarrassment and pain.
You managed 52 days sober once
then reaped litres of relapses from your acres of shame.
You gained another admission to rehab.
You failed to attend.
You went back to your old ways.
You lost your friend.

FIVE /

The woman who stares at you in the mirror
tells you that you can’t carry on like this.
She is right. You decide to do Dry January again.
She hasn’t had a drink in 52 hours. She feels dreadful.
Your tendons tremble under the strain of her twisted muscles,
loaded springs with no release, no relief, and a headache sent by Satan.
You know that you will make up for losing one addiction
by indulging in others: coffee, food, cocaine, shopping, books.
You don’t know if you’ll make it to the end of the month without booze.
But the woman in the mirror wants you to.
She really wants you to.
She tells you that you’ve got shit to do, things to prove.
She’s rooting for you.
You’re rooting for you, too.

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poetry, prosetry, Uncategorized

Former regard

adult black and white body female

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

I am weary of giving you access to my heart

emptying and filling

milk turning to wine

dark to light

nipples hard to soft

your fingers across

my hungering skin

I audition

in the morning against

tempura and gold gilt

shivering for the slick hot movement

of you within me

time stands quivering

stars a little closer

cheeks reddened with warble

I hear languages I cannot decipher

we ache and release together

splitting atoms

my throat if it could

would act as flute

climbing keys

touch into touch into loss

I am weary of giving you access to my heart

if this is temporary and restless

we disconnect as you

reduce the moment

walking with your sharp shoes

beyond feeling

as we cool down and ardor

is replaced by greed

a starvation for control

I want to say

I am just a bird

you cannot cage me

I must see the light

in order to thrive in darkness

flames come hottest

in the fragmenting

of former regard

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poetry, prosetry

This Time

We’ve said it seriously a few times before we really need to stop we cannot possibly carry on like this we can’t keep doing this shit anymore this is getting out of hand we’ve got to calm down we’ve got to stop and this time this time we really truly mean it

so we pledge and sit indoors on a Friday night sober and tired shaking and wired phones buzzing ignore ignore ignoring wake up Saturday morning wow how good it feels to have slept to feel clear in the head to have spent nothing no fights no sex no shame no regret

so let’s celebrate with a bottle of wine and some shots and a few lines because now we know that we can do it or rather do without it so we’re fine and we deserve it because we’ve worked so hard all week and we’re young and it’s fun so why should we impose these crazy rules on ourselves life is for living drugs are for taking drinks are for drinking music is for dancing so fuck it let’s live it let’s do it let’s do this

and then in a couple of days when you’re sick and skint and I’m a depressed mess we can have our little chat again and pledge again and

this time

we

really

fucking

mean it

right?

no seriously
I mean it this time
I know
we’ve got to stop
yes I agree
so do I
right then
that’s good
that’s fine
we can do this
yes
we don’t need any of it
no
everything is gonna be just fine
yes

 

 

 

is it really though?
what?
is everything gonna be fine?
yes

 

 

 

silence

 

 

 

 

 

I could really do with a line
same

 

 
one last line
for the last time
the last line for the last time
yes

 

 

 

 

I really fucking mean it this time
so do I

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

(’til next time)

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Uncategorized

On the chapped lips of lovers

Somewhere

Forgotten over time

A place that hurt

So terribly an ache

Felt like a fresh burn

Has been badly covered over

With paving stones uneven

Moss and lichen veiling crime

If someone deserning of pain

Saw

They’d immediately recognize

A broken, disturbed surface

Jagged and ill repaired

Lake without mirror

Time, a sad blessing

Where grief is concerned

What you thought you’d never recover from

Cut like totem in marrow’s deep

Doesn’t cease to be devastating

You simply forget the intensity

In order to not fall dead

The lessening is like laying a road, or putting up wallpaper

Layers and layers

You think it’s insulation

In many ways it works

Til something unexpected

Reminds you of how you really are

Behind all those layers

In all those crocheted boxes

Stored in denials, fickle womb

That pain you thought, softened

Is as strong as the day you first felt it

Love

Does not

Just whither up

And die

It twists blade upward

Unwilling, yet deftly

Cannibalizing those morsels

You thought most delicious

Til they become tormentor

Even licking fire, preferable

Than one minute more

The scathing and seal

Of pacts

Made in silent war

Where nothing is said

Hate and love, inside out versions

Of the same, mad drum

Beating relentless

Till one falls, one stays standing

Panting in flickering light

Of damage, desult and sate

On the chapped lips of lovers

Wicked in their apportioned

Vengeance

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Uncategorized

Live again

The day I stopped feeling

It wasn’t a tap turned all the way to halt any drip

or wet socks left on radiator until cardboard stiff

through muslin sheet I felt a wistfulness

like poignant ending of a film

or sad story of someone else’s life

but you did not feel part of me anymore

when I touched your hand, it was flesh and blood

not a girl I was connected to

neither stranger, but some

distance stood solid like forging tree limbs

seeking electric charge from rain after storm has passed

I had moved beyond you without

marking the spot, I put down my heartache

this is surely the most human thing about us

our ability to keep going, not fall down and wither

knowing we are finite and fallen

watch a child lose a friend on Friday

gain another come Monday

grief is a litmus test

a sorrow we shrug on and eventually off

I convinced myself of devastation

when Tuesday brings change even as we don’t seek

it comes drawing out like elongated stretch

I never thought

I’d feel nothing

looking into your eyes

but you closed yourself off

In time, I began to look away

Into the distance

where the unknown glistened

like a mirage

of things bidden

by places within us

that say

O please

live again

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